Nov 082017
 

One month before the December holidays, most folks I know are getting serious about finishing (or starting!) their handmade gifts, or wrapping up (pardon the pun) their gift purchases. It’s also that time of year when my local scrapbooking store, Memory Bound, holds its Holiday Open House. This past Thursday through Sunday, the Jingle All the Way Holiday Open House saw many visitors, including yours truly.

One of the reasons I like visiting Memory Bound, especially when special events like the Holiday Open House are held, is that they are wonderful creativity-starters. Even if you aren’t a paper crafter, aren’t you a little bit tempted by the projects shown in their Facebook photo album or the video shown below? (Click on the photo to see the video.)

Honestly, I didn’t have anything specific in mind when I visited the shop Sunday afternoon, but several tree projects caught my attention. This first project is a Joyful Tree that consists of pre-cut wood pieces that you’ll paint white, cover with decorative paper and winter-themed embellishments, then top off with a star or other tree topper made out of wood, fabric, felt, ribbon or anything else you desire. The tree, when finished, stands about 23 inches high. The easy-to-assemble project is packaged in a Kaisercraft Christmas Tree kit that costs $12.95 at Memory Bound.

The second tree project I spotted is based on an Accordion Tree pattern you can purchase exclusively from Memory Bound for only $1. You’ll need a wood base, dowel, scrapbook paper and glue for this project. The sample Accordion Trees at Memory Bound used Cozy paper by Authentique, and were topped off by a large snowflake, embellished with a raffia cord bow. The base consisted of a wood tree slice, but you can use any wooden base that provides stability. The pattern is easy to follow and the tree looks real cute on your kitchen or dining room table, the top of your piano, a shelf or an accent table.

As I exited Memory Bound, this wood-slat, painted Santa Grooved Tree caught my eye. The shop offers a daytime class on Friday, November 17th during office hours when I normally work, so I will not be able to take advantage of it. But if you’re interested, the class is taught by Laurie Speltz from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class fee of $47 includes everything you need except for basic supplies such as a craft mat, baby wipes, a Basic 5 Brush Set, a Black Pigma Micron .01 Pen, and stencil brushes. If you live in or near Ankeny, call Memory Bound at 515-965-1102 to learn about registration details.

So, why did I actually visit Memory Bound this past Sunday? I had no preconceived ideas (which makes for some risky shopping), but I was looking for something with a winter/holiday theme. What I ended up with is this lovely selection of papers and some jute ribbon spools. Stay tuned to find out what I do with them.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Nov 052017
 

This past Saturday was the culmination of months’ worth of evenings and weekends when I crocheted an endless stream of women’s winter accessories: head warmers, scarflettes, fingerless gloves and boot cuffs. I sell these items at only two craft fairs a year, which is likely my capacity because I also work full-time in an office. It can be challenging to create as much product as needed, or to start a new line. This year saw the introduction of boot cuffs.

Saturday’s craft show—the first time at this particular venue—went well. My husband and I rose early to set up our booth space at Santa’s North Pole Village in Ankeny, Iowa. When the doors opened at 9:00 a.m., we were ready to sell, the shoppers were lined up outside the doors, and we were off to the proverbial races.

You never know how a venue will turn out, so you have to be prepared for anything. Two weeks earlier, my husband and I traveled to Clarinda, Iowa to sell the same crocheted goods at Clarinda Craft Carnival. This has been an excellent selling venue for us in past years, but this year the weather was unseasonably warm—weather that does not exactly put winter apparel in the minds of shoppers. Our results, while not awful, were also not spectacular. The lesson learned—and you always learn lessons everywhere you sell—is that it probably would not be a bad idea to make part of my merchandise less weather-dependent. I have already started a list of possibilities, not least among them crocheted lace earrings.

This past weekend’s venue had a number of positive factors going for it, cooperative colder weather among them. The booth space was larger than other venues where I have sold, enabling me to set up my tables in a shallow U-shape. At the two ends of that U-shape, I set up props—one tall boot and one short boot at one end, each accessorized with a boot cuff. For the boot cuffs in particular, having real boots on hand as “models” served a useful purpose; at Clarinda’s craft fair, some people had no idea what boot cuffs are. In fact, many were more familiar with the term “boot toppers” than boot cuffs, and a few people couldn’t understand why you’d wear them at all. I guess that just meant they weren’t my typical customers; you can’t take these things personally!

On the other end of the U-shape, I stood up a table mannequin who wore a head warmer and scarflette. This gave me the opportunity to show how you wear both accessories.

In the case of the scarflette, I could point to the button on the back side of the flower embellishment that allows the two ends of the scarflette to cross and fasten into place. Inevitably, this led to an explanation that there is a second way to fasten the scarflette: you can scrunch up one of the tails and slide it beneath the petal openings of the flower, using friction to keep the tails of the scarflette crossed.

At the end of this weekend’s craft show, John and I packed everything up, counted the earnings, and talked about what we had learned at both craft shows this year.

  1. A prop—not just a picture—is worth a thousand words. One woman’s boot cuff is another woman’s boot topper, and sometimes no one knows what either term means.
  2. Pay attention to traffic flow. Foot traffic was heavy at the Ankeny craft show, moving counterclockwise around the gym in which we were located. The shallow U-shape provided a welcome space for people to stop for a breather, invited conversation, and subsequently drew them to the merchandise.
  3. Pay attention to customers’ comments. A color that I wear a lot—jade—was nowhere in sight among my products. Next year I will remedy that omission!
  4. Don’t set up your booth display the same way at all craft shows. Even if you have sold at the venue previously, you create customer excitement with variety. Brick-and-mortar retail stores do the same thing, rearranging the location of merchandise frequently to draw attention. Think about booth arrangement before you arrive, and get clarification from the show’s organizers if you have no idea what to expect. Often a map of the venue is available online or via email.
  5. Weather can be a factor in people’s shopping habits. Take this into consideration when you evaluate your show’s results. If I had never sold my products previously in Clarinda, I might have come to the conclusion that this is not a good venue for me. Instead, I need to think about how I can minimize the effect of weather on what I can sell.
  6. When you evaluate the worthiness of a craft venue, don’t look at only your sales. There are many factors that define success. Consider not only your expenses (booth fees, travel, meals, hotel accommodations), but also how much you have learned about your customers, future product possibilities, and possibly also other selling opportunities.

Do you typically take the time after a craft show to do more than count your earnings and take inventory of your stock? It’s critical to hold an honest conversation with yourself and possibly a partner to evaluate what went well, what didn’t work, and what you can do differently in the future. In the process, you’ll create better possibilities for your next selling event.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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May 212017
 

In my neighborhood you always know it’s graduation season when it’s a weekend in May and cars line the street everywhere it’s legal to park. Garland-festooned mailboxes and balloons tied to poles or trees beckon visitors who stride up the driveway. They enter homes without ringing the doorbell to take part in an open house or a family celebration. That’s also my signal to make a few graduation cards, if I haven’t done so already. This year we have two of them in our family—two nieces who have finished college and are moving on to the next phase in their lives. I had so much fun making and then describing shaker cards in my last post that I decided to try my hand at a couple of graduation cards for my nieces.

I gathered the basic tools and supplies listed below:

To begin the project, I cut 8-1/2 x 11-inch heavy weight white card stock into two rectangles for two cards. I scored them in half and folded them. Then I cut two 4-1/4 inch x 5-1/4 inch rectangles from a sheet I removed from a DCWV pad of black-and-white floral paper that I’ve had for a while.

I removed some rectangular cutting dies from their package for the first time to cut shaker window openings in my cards.

Before I could do so, however, I had to cut apart the dies because they were joined to each other with metal “wires.” Snipping them apart with pliers was easy; filing down the nubs with a metal file took a little longer. I got my file from Elizabeth Craft Designs (which no longer sells them), but you can pick up something similar for around $8 from your local home improvement store, such as a multi-purpose file set from Home Depot.

For the first card, I ran the white card stock and black-and-white floral paper through my Big Shot die cutting machine on two separate runs to cut rectangular windows. Then I wondered if I couldn’t do both sheets at the same time. I tried it, and it worked great.

This left me with some rectangular scraps to use for another project.

After I cut out shaker windows, I covered both of them with bridal tulle, adhering the tulle in place with Scor-tape. You’ll notice in the photo below that the paper bends; this is because it is fairly thin paper, definitely not as heavy as card stock. In retrospect, I wish I had adhered the decorative paper to card stock, and then cut a window into it. It would have been sturdier! I guess you can always learn something new from your projects.

I sandwiched gold and iridescent white sequins between both shaker windows, adhering all layers together with Scor-tape, as you can see in the photo below.

Finally, I stamped images with Memento Dye Ink in Tuxedo Black, and then colored them in with an assortment of Copic markers. It’s important to use a Copic-friendly ink; if you don’t, you’ll end up with a smeared mess! I know this because I made that error with a previous project. Then, I cut out the images with a die set from Avery Elle that coordinates with the Hats Off stamp set. I could have cut them out with scissors, but this was so much easier!

I was in a hurry to use the dies, so you’ll notice that when I cut them apart with my pliers, I did not snip off the wires that attach the dies to each other, nor did I file away any remaining nubs.

I adhered the images to the front of the card using Ranger Multi Medium Matte, which is a strong adhesive that dries clear and matte. Keep in mind that the paper was adhered to bridal tulle, which of course has holes in it because it’s a mesh, so if you don’t use the same product I used, it needs to be something that adheres paper to fabric without adding bulk. I haven’t tried it, but I bet Beacon Fabri-Tac would also work. I like the fact that Ranger Multi Medium Matte dries real quickly; Beacon Fabri-Tac does not.

Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I had used fewer sequins. On the other hand, it was serendipitous that the graduation caps prevented all of the sequins from dropping to the bottom of the shaker window. I wanted to create the effect of confetti floating through the air . . . just not quite so MUCH confetti!

Because I didn’t want the Copic ink, which saturated my card stock, to show through on the inside of the card, I used the Avery Elle coordinating dies to cut out the images once more in plain white card stock. I adhered these shapes to the inside of the card directly opposite the colored shapes on the other side, giving the card a neat appearance.

With one card successfully completed, I decided to tackle the second one. But guess I was over-confident. The next thing I knew, I had adhered my two layers of tulle together, but without the sequins. This was a problem. When I tried to peel apart the layers, the card didn’t survive the effort. But thank goodness for paper scraps! I folded another half-sheet of Bazzill card stock to create a card, and adhered some of that black-and-white floral paper to the front.

Then I grabbed one of the white rectangles that remained after I cut out a previous shaker window, and cut a rectangle of white craft foam to adhere to the back of it. Why? I wanted the rectangle to be the focus of the card. By adding foam (and thus dimension) to the rectangle, it made it stand out more.

The rest of the card was easy to finish. Once more, I used the Avery Elle Hats Off stamp set to stamp images for the front of the card, and colored them in with Copic markers. I cut out the images with the coordinating die set, and adhered them in place with dots of Scotch Permanent Tacky Glue. Then, I dotted the white space with Ranger Multi Medium Matte, and use my Xacto knife to pick up and drop into place one sequin at a time. When I was done, I decided I liked this non-shaker version of the card better than the shaker version. Who knew?

I still have a few leftover paper scraps from the die cuts, but they can be used in another project. That’s the one result that you can’t seem to get away from when you make your own cards . . . and it also means you need a method for storing scraps. I use three-hole punched clear sheet protectors for my paper scraps, and organize them by color groups inside a binder. What do you do with your scraps? Have you been making graduation cards?

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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